While many farmers and agricultural operators had welcomed the news that the Department for Transport was considering the option to increase the maximum weight which trailers could hit when used on public roads, their hopes were dashed last week at the news that the plans have been scrapped.
FG Insight reports that various organisations have protested against the decision, citing already challenging market conditions and the impending pressure of the UK’s exit from the EU as being key reasons making the increases necessary.
Frustration for Farmers
Back in March of 2015, regulators confirmed that farmers and contractors would now be able to use tractors and trailers with a combined weight of up to 31 tonnes on roads across the country. This was a significant rise from the original limit of just over 24 tonnes which was previously in place.
The main issue that those in agriculture had with this increase was that it did not actually impact the maximum allowable weight limit of trailers themselves, which persisted at the 18.29 tonne level that had been in place in the past. This meant that while bigger and more powerful tractors could be used, the weight limit on trailers became the new bottleneck.
Phase two of the changes to the weight limit rules was expected to be pushed through this year, but a DfT announcement put paid to these past promises and resulted in plenty of frustration being expressed across the agricultural industry.
A Disappointing Decision
Martin Hays, who represents the National Association of Agricultural Contractors, said that the members of his organisation were dissatisfied with the decision taken by the government, arguing that it would be harder for the industry to move forwards and remain competitive internationally without more being done.
He also pointed out that the last time trailer weight limits were changed was three decades ago, meaning that the advances in farm machinery technology that have occurred in the intervening years are not taken into account by the current regulations.
Hays said that it was vital for farm machinery operators to work both safely and efficiently in order to cope with the obstacles that they will face once Article 50 has been triggered, arguing that by raising the maximum allowable weights of trailers it would be possible to actually cut the number of tractors that are travelling on public roads.
In addition, a boost to the amount of material that trailers can contain would mean that there was less need to take the heavy machinery involved in the harvesting process out on the roads at all, which would be beneficial for farmers and other drivers alike, he claims.
At the moment, the industry is still awaiting an explanation from the DfT as to why this decision to drop the planned changes was made. Representatives and campaigners are hoping that they will be able to work together with the government in order to come up with a suitable solution and perhaps get the ball rolling on regulatory adjustments once more.